RLI 50th Birthday - 1 February 2011


On 1 February 1961 the all white Rhodesian Light Infantry was formed as a result of growing concerns within Rhodesia over the shape post colonial Africa was taking where the colonial order had given way to brutal dictatorships and economic collapse often at the hands of the ex-colonial African troops. By September 1961 the RLI were deployed to the Congo border and border control duties to prevent the chaos resulting from the attempted secession of the province of Katanga from spilling over into the then Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

After the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in 1965 the insurgency began to increase steadily over time until 1973 by when the RLI had elements permanently deployed on border control and internal operations all the time. The 1974 coup d’etat in Portugal and the ensuing collapse of their colonies exposed Rhodesia to an additional 1,200km of border across which insurgents could infiltrate. To maximise the use of limited forces and to ensure a rapid ability to concentrate those forces the Fire Force concept was developed using Air Force Allouette III helicopters and Lynx (Cessna 337) CAS piston-engined aircraft and primarily the RLI.

The ruthless efficiency of the joint Air Force and RLI Fire Force operations where the RLI was deployed by helicopter and later also by parachute was to account for the deaths of in excess of 12,000 insurgents during the course of the war at a rate of 160 enemy killed for every one of their own lost: a truly remarkable record. By mid 1976 the RLI comprised about half conscripted Rhodesian National Servicemen and of the balance there was a large representation of Brits, Americans, Canadians, Australians and others. Ultimately recruits from some 35 different nationalities passed through the RLI.

Periodically withdrawn from Fire Force operations to take part in cross-border operations into neighbouring Zambia and Mozambique together with the Rhodesian Special Air Service (SAS) and supported by the Air Force the RLI was party to inflicting further immense damage to externally based insurgent forces and their logistic support.

On 31 October 1980, after a short but action packed nineteen year existence, the RLI was disbanded after the political settlement which arose from the Lancaster House Conference where nationalist and guerrilla leader, Robert Mugabe, was declared winner of an election marred by massive intimidation and became Prime Minister of the newly independent Zimbabwe.

However, the RLI lives on and on 1 February 2011 will celebrate its 50th birthday. Functions and gatherings both large and small will be held around the world to remember the regiment, honour the fallen and celebrate together the good times when all were young and soldiered with “the incredible” Rhodesian Light Infantry.

The South African celebration will be over 4/5 February in Jo'burg/Pretoria with the UK gathering being 23/25 September 2011 in London/Bedford/Hatfield (see link below)

50th Anniversary Celebrations 23rd - 25th September 2011 UK Branch
The SA part of the Anniversary went well. 320 (now) old soldiers (some with crows) gathered for a when-we session and to remember and honour the fallen. The next round will be in the UK in September.

Neither at the Friday "prayer meeting" at a local MOTH Shellhole nor at the Saturday Service nor the bun-fight thereafter did anyone get fall-down drunk or throw a punch. Maybe it means that 30 years after the war we have all grown up ;)

See larger image here.
50th Anniversary Celebrations 23rd - 25th September 2011 UK Branch

As per the above (and earlier posts in this thread).

Last call for the old-and-bold lurking in the UK to attend this event. Don't let the fact that many of us will be travelling from SA, Zim, the US, Canada, Hong Kong and even Oz put you off. :)

It is testiment to the regimental system that 30 odd years after the regiment was disbanded hundreds of members will go out of their way to attend as they did in February this year in SA.

Good organisation by Martyn Hudson and his UK Committee.

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